Interaction in the classroom

I’m in the middle of watching this TED video and I can already recommend it to anyone with an interest in education:

What made me stop the video and then proceed to write this post was how he described some teachers using the Khan Academy lectures. Basically, the students watched the lectures at home and what used to be homework was done in class. That way, the teacher is freed from having to give the same lectures over and over again, the students are free to pause, rewind and fast-forward the lectures as they see fit, and in class the students get to talk to the teacher and other students about the subject.

This reminded me of the Dragon Speech given by Chris Crawford in 1992. In that speech (in the third part, if you’re curious) he described how normal lectures are designed to be efficient but at the cost of low effectiveness, that the human mind is an active agent, not a passive receptacle. What he proposed for giving more effectiveness to lectures was to make them interactive by translating them into games.

It’s an approach that doesn’t seem practical since it requires a huge amount of legwork to get it started and then there’s no guarantee that it’ll catch on.

See where I’m getting at?

Yes, the Khan Academy videos seem to be the solution to the problem Crawford exposed. Granted, there’s not a huge amount of interactivity on the videos themselves, but that’s not a problem here. By watching the videos at home, the students are free to interact, to talk about the subject freely between themselves and with the teacher. It takes an expository environment such as the classroom and makes it a hell of a lot more interactive.

And it’s efficient too because the video lectures can be watched by anybody at anytime anywhere as long as they have an internet connection and a browser.

Frankly, the only problem that I see with using the Khan Academy lectures is that they’re all in the same language: English. The chances of these lectures catching on in countries other than the english speaking ones are … well, minimal. Non-existent, in fact.

When I was little, to get information I and many other students resorted to the spanish version of Encarta. It was nice and all, but it doesn’t even compare to Wikipedia nowadays, which not only has supplanted Encarta, it has helped spread a new paradigm in and off itself.

Would the Khan Academy do the same thing for the classroom environment? At least I’m sure of one thing, it’s going to need a huge translation effort in order to get closer to that goal.


Side-notes of stuff further in the video:

  • Students with swiss cheese holes in their knowledge. That’s unbelievably and painfully true.
  • The data structures and how they are graphed is very intelligent and intuitive. Seems as it would be a huge help for the teachers.
  • Everyone gets stuck on a topic eventually and due to that some kids are labeled as “slower” than their peers. I’m not sure that happens everywhere in the world, but at least it rings somewhat true to me.
  • Haha, he talks about a global classroom. Yeah, as long as it’s only in English that ain’t going to happen.

3 thoughts on “Interaction in the classroom

  1. Very inspiring talk.

    I have done something similar over the past year, using the website 3D Buzz to learn C# programming, Unity game engine, and right now I’m studying fundamental Mathematics for computer graphics.

    I really like the way their VTMs (Video Training Modules) are structured. It’s like having your personal teacher with infinite patience. For example, I have watched over 100+ hours of content dealing with C# programming, starting from the very basics, then object-oriented programming and finally using C# and XNA to develop my own small Windows and Xbox games. The video bundle is called XNA Extreme 101 (, consists of three DVDs, and can be bought at a price of $99. It’s one of the best decisions I have done in my educational life!

    Before I’m going to university in September, I decided to brush up my math skills. Like he says in the TED talk, almost everybody has some holes in their knowledge. Therefore I thought it would be a good idea to refresh my memory, so I bought the Mathematics Bundle I-III ( on 3D Buzz. Thus far I really appreciate the videos, since it has been a while since I learned mathematics in school.

    All of 3D Buzz’s content are in English, and like you say, this can be a problem for some. Being a non-native English speaker (I’m from Denmark) is not a problem for me, but I think it will be harder for younger kids to follow along if the videos are in English. However, I think a lot of kids are getting better at the language these days, thanks to the world of the Internet and gaming. I remember myself playing the old Pokémon games when I was around 10 years old. I had to force myself to learn the language if I wanted to proceed in the game. Today, I can thank videogames for my knowledge of the English language.

  2. Diego Doumecq

    Awesome! I didn’t know they had a translation effort going on. Might have been useful to put something like that in the front page =P
    And yeah, I see what you’re saying about more and more people learning english and I’d tend to agree with you, but that’s hardly the mayority. Even when english classes are mandatory in schools here in Argentina =/

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